I just found out yesterday that the church where I was baptized closed as a center of worship. I don’t know the details, but I gather it was a long time in coming. I remember well the stone building on its tree-filled property that abutted the very fancy Sleepy Hollow Country Club. We used to hop the church’s fence to go see the Country Club’s 4th of July Fireworks. I remember the smell of the church; some sort of lemon cleanser that didn’t quite mask the lingering mustiness. I remember that time with the youth group playing Sardines in the darkened church when one kid hid under the organ and almost set off a mouse trap. I can play back our family’s home videos in my head, images of my mom performing goofy skits, or of my brother, age 3, bedecked in a cotton-ball-covered tunic and looking straight into the camera to announce, “I’m a sheep!”
It’s funny how much I remember. I haven’t had any affiliation with the place in probably fifteen years.
I assume the property will go on to a new purpose, and perhaps even serve again as a place of worship for new people. I pray this is the case. Even so, as many memories as those walls held for so many families, I can’t help but feel like maybe there is something good to gather from this. It’s just a building. We need to keep that perspective. It is an earthly thing. This is not to say that God does not consecrate spaces or bless material things; He cares about the physical. But He cares a lot–oh so much more–for us. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to pursue Truth (yes, that is a capital T). He does not want us to go through the motions. He wants a church of vibrant, faith-filled people, and this body, this church, can meet anywhere, whether it is in a hut, or a cathedral, or on a dusty road where Christ once said, “The son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” then bid us to follow him.
In honor of these sentiments, I want to share with you again a project I did with a musician friend a few months back. It is a song called, “We Are Dead,” performed live in an abandoned church. Peter McKeown of Woodferd astounds listeners with his musical prowess and thoughtful poetry. This song touches on the juxtaposition of the temporal and eternal, and so when Peter came to me saying he wanted to do a video in an empty church, it couldn’t have been more appropriate. In some ways, the lyrics and the song are a little shocking, but I hope you hear, as I do, the underlying hope: some things do last forever. We just have to make sure we know what those are.